As you may recall, last summer when I was sworn in as the new President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG), I announced my plans to use my position to bring the fight against human trafficking to every state in our nation, and launched my 2012 Presidential Initiative: “Pillars of Hope – Attorneys General Unite Against Human Trafficking.”
I’m very pleased to report that the Pillars of Hope Initiative has been a huge success in raising awareness about human trafficking in America, and more importantly, pushing this issue into the community spotlight where citizens are most likely to become engaged, and best able to learn how to take action. As a result, there is much great work being done across the country, and right here in Washington.
From the Super Bowl to Switzerland...and back to Backpage
For example, last month I travelled to Indianapolis over Super Bowl weekend (although I was back home in time to watch the game in my own living room!) to join Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and visit a command center established specifically to combat prostitution and human trafficking throughout the weekend.
On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in January, I accepted more than 720,000 petition signatures from The Body Shop, an ethical beauty retailer partnering with ECPAT USA and the Somalay Mam Foundation to raise global awareness about human trafficking. The Body Shop International has already delivered more than seven million signatures supporting an international call for action to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 29, 2011. These petitions demonstrate the increasing awareness of the sex trafficking crisis and widespread public concern about the children and young people being victimized, both here in the U.S. and around the world.
Most recently, I participated in a very inspiring forum organized by the Kittitas County Women of Vision in partnership with Central Washington University. Many outstanding organizations joined forces for this event, which many professors made mandatory for their students to attend, to educate the community about human trafficking and provide attendees with information on how they can help stop it.
And Attorneys General across the country continue urging Backpage.com to do their part in the fight against minor sex trafficking by discontinuing their adult services section, although they have yet to show much interest in giving up any of the $22 million in revenue they earn each year by charging one dollar and up for each adult services ads posted on their site. In fact, just this week I again addressed this problem at the NAAG spring meeting in Washington, D.C.
More concerned citizens are calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline
Since launching Pillars of Hope, we’ve seen a significant increase in calls to the National Human Trafficking hotline, which is operated by the Polaris Project. Currently, the hotline (1-888-373-7888) is receiving an average of 65 calls per day, or about 2,000 calls per month. In 2011, the hotline handled 19,427 calls, a 64% increase from 2010. We believe this is a direct result of more people actively publicizing the hotline number, so we know it is critical to continually look for new ways to raise public awareness that this number is available and staffed 24-hours a day, seven days a week. To date, the hotline has learned about over 5,500 victims of human trafficking in the U.S., and more than 1,900 tips and trafficking leads have been referred to law enforcement through this hotline.
You’re invited! 2012 Presidential Initiative Summit in Seattle March 28-30
As the NAAG Presidency is a one-year term, it will soon be time for me to pass the torch to the next NAAG President, who will be sworn into office in June. Before that happens, I’m working to ensure that the progress we have made with Pillars of Hope thus far serves as a solid foundation for communities to build effective and long-lasting solutions to ending human trafficking, here in our state and across the nation. One way we will accomplish this is by making human trafficking the subject of a new standing committee of NAAG.
To learn more about how you can become involved, please consider joining me at my Presidential Initiative Summit, “Pillars of Hope – Attorneys General Unite Against Human Trafficking” to be held March 28 – 30, 2012 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle. This Summit will provide a forum to find ways to combat both labor and sex trafficking. The program begins the evening of Wednesday, March 28 with a Welcome Reception and film screening. Registration details and a draft agenda are available on the NAAG website. You can also contact Executive Assistant Shelley Rohr, in my Olympia office, at (360) 586-0363 or ShelleyR@atg.wa.gov for more information. We hope to see you there!
Even if you won’t be attending the summit, there are still so many ways, both large and small, to help in the fight against human trafficking. I hope you will consider looking for opportunities in your own community to become involved.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to turn your clocks forward this weekend!